Critically ill 12-year-old Archie Battersbee dies after life support removed

LONDON — Archie Battersbee, a 12-year-old British boy whose life support system was removed after a legal battle between his parents and doctors, died on Saturday, his mother said, ending another heartbreaking case over who makes the life and death decisions for a critically ill child.

Archie had been in a deep coma since his mother found him unconscious at their home in Essex, southeast England, on April 7 with something tied around his neck. His mother, Hollie Dance, said he could have participated in an online challenge.

In a series of rulings, judges concluded that Archie had suffered severe brain damage and that the burden of treating his condition “as well as the complete lack of prospect of recovery” outweighed the benefits of continuing to treat him. keep alive on a ventilator.

Archie’s family have appealed the decisions, saying they want him to die at a “godly chosen” time. They argued that because of his Christian beliefs and the thoughts he had expressed in the past, Archie’s intention would have been to continue living.

On Wednesday evening, after unsuccessful appeals in three different courts in a week, the family requested that Archie be transferred to hospice. Doctors at the Royal London Hospital refused because of the risks involved in moving him, saying they would most likely lead to “premature deterioration”, and the family’s legal efforts to overturn the decision were also rejected.

Ms Dance had called the doctors’ decision to schedule a time when life support would be removed a ‘choreographed execution of my son’. She asked why parents “have their decisions and rights taken away from them.”

In Britain, when parents and doctors disagree about what is in a child’s best interests, a court is called upon to decide. In recent years, similar high-profile cases have emerged, such as those of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans. Pope Francis weighed in on both cases, and Donald J. Trump, when he was president, offered US help for 11-month-old Charlie.

Experts said these painful dilemmas reflected a shift from when doctors made the final call, with decisions seen not just as medical but also ethical. If parents disagree with doctors, almost impossible questions arise, such as what kind of life is worth living and how serious a child’s condition was before he or she died. be judged that there is no chance of recovery.

In Archie’s case, doctors said they believed his brainstem was dead. Due to the lack of response, however, doctors were unable to perform full brainstem tests, so he had not been legally declared brain dead.

At the hearings, the judges sided with the medical evidence supporting the conclusion that Archie had no prospect of recovery. They ruled that the medical support “serves only to prolong his death, while being incapable of prolonging his life”, according to court documents.

Ms Dance said Archie’s condition was better than described in court by doctors. She said he showed signs of improvement, adding that he even shook her hand.

Archie’s father, Paul Battersbee, has kept a lower profile during the legal battles, but has been supportive of efforts to continue life support.

Dominic Wilkinson, professor of medical ethics at Oxford University, said the problem boiled down to one fundamental question.

“It’s about knowing what medicine is for“, he said. It is to make us better, to make us able to live and enjoy our lives. But sometimes all medicine can do is prolong the death phase. And sometimes medicine, frankly, does more harm than good.

But, he added, on this topic, doctors and families sometimes disagreed.

“Families can sometimes want to prolong life at all costs,” he said, “while medical professionals recognize that medicine has reached its natural limits.”

Last week, after the British Supreme Court refused to intervene To postpone the removal of life support, Ms Dance filed a petition with the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an arm of the organization’s human rights agency. The agency said it had asked the UK government to refrain from withdrawing the treatment while the case was under investigation.

“All we’ve ever asked for is more time,” Ms Dance said in a statement at the time. “The urgency of the hospital and the courts is unexplained.”

“I don’t believe there’s anything ‘worthy’ about planning Archie’s death,” she added. “Parents need support, not pressure.”

But on Monday, the court declined to extend a break past noon on Tuesday, arguing that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, under which the UN committee had requested, was an “unincorporated international treaty and that the decision to withdraw life support could stand.

The family asked on Tuesday to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but the request was denied. The next morning, they filed a petition with the European Court of Human Rights, which declined to intervene.

On Saturday, shortly after his life support was removed at 10 a.m., Archie died.

“I wouldn’t want other parents to go through what we went through,” Ms. Dance told Times Radio on Wednesday, adding that she intended to continue to raise awareness about issues such as the online challenges parents face. children participate and “to use Archie’s story”. to hopefully save their lives.

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